The crisis in student mental health has been growing for years, but the pandemic has heightened these struggles for today’s students. In a recent report, we shared data from the current school year, highlighting increases across all of our content categories. This included a 67% increase in incidents involving suicide and self-harm, a 143% increase in nudity and sexual content incidents, a 98% increase in incidents involving drugs and alcohol, and a 67% increase in incidents of violence. It’s clear that students are struggling more than ever, but we don’t yet know just how much the pandemic has affected the mental health of this generation of students.
Social and emotional learning (SEL) and mental well-being should be prioritized by K-12 districts across the country as students return to the classroom for the 2021–22 academic year. By teaching students how to manage, discuss, and cope with their personal feelings, students of all ages can become more in touch with their emotions. As we move forward from this unusual and unpredictable time, it’s vital that we equip students with habits and coping mechanisms to maintain positive mental health.
The demand for support services to be offered through schools is increasing. According to a recent EdWeek Research Center survey, 21% of high school students said they felt they would benefit from school-based mental health services for the first time during the pandemic. As we look toward the next school year, it’s apparent that students will need additional supports as they transition back to the classroom. There are funding streams currently available to school districts to support these mental health efforts, including funding that can be used for student teletherapy services like Gaggle Therapy. Now is the time to be bold with new and existing K-12 funds to ensure that any student who needs help has access to it.
But it’s not just students who need support—educators can also benefit from SEL. With 92% of teachers indicating that their job is more stressful now than it was before the pandemic, education leaders are aware of just how important it is to also ensure educator well-being, with some choosing to enhance SEL supports for staff. In order for students to thrive in the post-pandemic era, it’s crucial to promote positive mental well-being for educators to avoid burnout. After all, if our educators can’t teach, our students can’t learn.